24 HRS. WRITER'S SOBER JOURNEY
24 Hours' Sean Fitzgerald did something Mad Men's Don Draper (Jon Hamm) would never do: he gave up booze for two months. AMC
My eyes adjust to the bright lights as I walk into the liquor store, the air heightened with excitement as people pick up drinks for their weekend Halloween parties. I grab four tall boys of beer and place them on the counter in front of the cashier, feeling a mixture of guilt and anticipation.
I have become a drinker again.
Yes, I'm back. But I'm not here to tell you about the present. I'm here to tell you about what's already happened.
For eight weeks, I took a vow of sobriety, turning my back on delicious ciders, refreshing beers and tasty mixed drinks for the months of September and October. I spent two months being the sober guy, the designated driver, the level-headed one and the boring dude. It was incredibly easy most of the time. But on a few weekends, it was also insanely difficult.
Why am I telling you about my particular health experiment? Well, perhaps it could inspire you to launch your own personal challenge. Staying away from booze for a month or two could help you lose a few pounds, save some money, improve your sleep, reset your alcohol tolerance and make you forget about hangovers for a while.
And since we're done with Thanksgiving and Halloween, this time of year could be the sweet spot for a sobriety challenge, says Michelle Jaelin, a registered dietitian and the president of NutritionArtist Inc.
"We're all human beings, and you're going to go to holiday parties during Christmas
and New Year's Eve, and there's going to be alcohol," she says. "So why not give your body a bit of a break before the big holiday season hits?" Alcoholic drinks contain more calories than most people think, adds Jaelin, so a beer break will likely make your jeans feel looser and your belt fit tighter - something that I definitely noticed after the first month.
If you're still looking to sip on something at bars or clubs, Jaelin recommends asking the bartender for a mocktail - requesting a 'half-sweet' version is even healthier - or drinking a mixture of juice and soda water.
Is giving up alcohol for a while feasible for you? Maybe if there's a reward connected to it. A recent
Angus Reid Forum Panel survey, completed by Stub-Hub, found that 44% of women and 34% of men would take a one-month breather from booze if they could have scored tickets to a major sporting event.
Or perhaps the health benefits are reward enough. A recent study from the U.K., conducted by researchers from University College
London, found that taking a month off from drinking alcohol helped prevent illness - like diabetes and liver disease - later in life, with patients seeing benefits to their blood pressure, liver function and cholesterol levels.
If you're going to begin a dry period, you're going to have to consider the social ramifications, says personal trainer Jason Brown (Full disclosure: This guy is my trainer and the person who inspired me to start my challenge).
"The first weekend is really rough," says Brown, who conducted his own five-week sobriety experiment last spring. "And that's partly because you have to think more about how you're going to socialize. There's a lot more conscious decision-making. It's not being led to different things by friends.
It's actually making decisions for yourself."
Personally, I found that I still enjoyed myself at parties, even though I received a range of reactions from drinkers when they heard about my situation - from "well done" to "why would you do that?" to "I hope you find whatever it is you're searching for at the end of this."
Even though you're not judging people, some of them think that you are. Abstinence might make you take a second look at your friendships. "I had one friend who was completely unsupportive, and I actually don't even associate with him anymore, because he was so unsupportive that it made me reexamine the friendship completely," Brown confesses. "You can only dismiss it as humour so many times before you realize that no, it's actually sabotage. It's actually someone who doesn't want to see you succeed."
When you eventually return to the dark side, you'll find that drinks hit you really quickly, so make sure to pace yourself if you start drinking again during the holiday season.
And if you're someone who struggles with alcohol addiction and is currently in a recovery program, please know that I'm not trying to make fun of your situation here.
If someone goes without booze for a few months, it'll probably allow that person to have more empathy for your forced sobriety.
Unfortunately, I can't think of a catchy hashtag for Sober November, so I'll leave that to you, dear readers. I was able to use 'Sobtember' and 'Octsober' for my two months.
Yes, my eight-week journey has come to an end, but I'm hoping that you guys can carry it forward for me.
Be dry, be boring and be healthy.
I'll be waiting for you at the end of it, with a four-pack of tallboys and a plate full of chicken wings.